Five reasons why direct marketing matters as much as digital

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Quite frequently, direct marketing – for example, direct mail, partially addressed mail, online and printed ads, websites and catalogue – are often looked down upon by proponents of digital marketing. There seems to be a strange perception offline comms, including email, are somehow less interesting and exciting than working in digital comms or even the holy grail of television.

And yet direct mail still works for so many brands across so many sectors that it should and has to be considered an ongoing and highly successful media channel. There is also a perception that direct mail is for “old people” (and it’s true that some of our best successes are for brands that target a more mature audience), but it also works for younger groups just as well, especially when it is well targeted and creative. Don’t get me wrong, the sweet spot for direct mail generally is brands or charities looking to engage with older people, but is that that much of a problem? Older age groups have more money to spend, are less affected by recessions and the cost of living crisis, and have the time to engage, read and respond.

And that response is crucial because – and here’s the shocker – most of them go online, find the brand, do some research and then buy or donate on the brand’s website. Yes, it’s true, direct mail directly influences spend online.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Just recently, one of our teams was recounting how a direct mail campaign’s response rate had been understated because the attribution modelling allocates the response via last click to SEO and PPC. However, customers can be matched back to the outbound communication and the timing can’t be a coincidence: all responded with a few days of receiving a direct mail piece. In general, we see at least 40% uplift from indirect attribution when looking at matchbacks compared to last click tracking, and in some cases, that percentage can be even higher.

A key lesson here is to ensure that all channels are tracked in the right way to ensure the halo effects of campaigns are taken into account.

When it comes to targeting, we also see some of the most interesting campaigns being run using direct mail. For example, last year we ran a campaign for G-tech, experts in the field of cordless technology. They wanted to continue to grow their customer database and broaden their reach as they expand their product range and that included selling hedge trimmers. So what we wanted to do was find people with hedges. Not rocket science.

As we normally do, we built a bespoke propensity model to help ensure we were targeting correctly. Crucially, for a particularly time-sensitive and seasonal campaign, we overlaid property variables and social listening data to ensure that prospects were ‘in market’ for the product, reaching them at the right time, with the right message – a fundamental pillar of any good marketing campaign, whether that’s online or offline.

G-tech’s direct mail campaigns have been hugely successful; with significantly increased volumes campaign on campaign, all have driven positive ROI and exceptional response rates, generating between 175% and 245% against target. Each campaign’s responders are fed into the next model build, continually refining our targeting so that the client has confidence in the responsiveness and quality of our data.

There is, of course, no reason why this same approach – profile, target, use interesting data, refine – can’t also work online. In fact, with the cookie laws tightening and Facebook’s targeting changes this year impacting on the ability to target on a one-to-one basis, it could be argued that this approach not only could but should be getting adopted online. But that’s a different topic for another time!

So, in summary, here are five reasons why direct marketing matters as much as digital:

  1. Direct mail works for many brands and charities across many sectors
  2. Direct mail engages more mature audiences, who often have more money to spend and have the time to respond
  3. Direct mail drives customers and prospects online and it directly influences spend online
  4. Direct mail allows you to run interesting and creative campaigns, often tapping into online sources of data via social listening, for example
  5. Direct mail targeting can be continually refined to ensure highly responsive, high quality data.

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